CAAS – The Fingerstyle Convention In Nashville

Nishi Nishiyama playing at CAAS

I’ve considered Nashville to be my favourite place in the whole wide musical world and coming back these past days was only reinforcing this perception. I’ve been here twice before for CAAS and once for a field trip with my old school Berklee College of Music so this was my 4th time in the music city.

My trip was sponsored by this great iPhone app for chord learning that I reviewed in my last post called OneHour Method so part of my focus was on promoting, but it didn’t get in the way of getting my mind blown time after time with these great performances.

CAAS

I was attending this convention arranged by Chet Atkins Appreciation Society or CAAS in short. CAAS is basically a convention where fingerpickers from all around the world come to perform, meet and to learn from each other.

There were dozens of great players and there was no time to see them all so I’m just gonna pick out a few worth checking out. These are also the guys to check out if you’re new to fingerstyle.  Some of my old favourites performing there were Tommy Emmanuel (no surprise there), Joe Robinson and Richard Smith. I also finally got to see a whole show of Brooks Robertson the next in the Jerry Reed - Buster B. Jones bloodline. That funky clavinet-like sound is still haunting me. After days of fast virtuosic fingerstyle I walked into a room where a guitar man named Tony McManus was playing a piece by Eric Satie, the French composer. And the time just stopped and for a moment it was so calm and peaceful. Another one who stood out for me was this gentleman called Sean McGowan whose swing and delicate jazzy playing style I enjoyed a lot. 

Michael Coppolas 9 stringer with unorthodox tuning seemed to be out there, but the man could actually play that thing.
Another cool design was this electric harp guitar that I enjoyed playing.

There’s also a good amount of jamming happening in various styles including blues and jazz (especially gypsy jazz has been present lately). Jack Pearson of The Allman Brothers fame turned out several nights and I got to play with him, too. But as I said, too many good players to name. 

Downtown

I also caught a bunch of great concerts outside of CAAS, all of them taking place at 3rd & Lindsley, which seemed like a place to be.

First one was Brent Mason on Wednesday night. Brent Mason’s Hot Wired was one of the first tunes I learned on a thumb pick 10 years ago when I was studying with a great Finnish country picker Jarmo Hynninen. It was probably the one to push me over the edge and to almost desert the regular flat pick. (Reed’s influence was pretty heavy, too) So it was very emotional moment for me. Brent played many tunes from that album including the title track and was just burning on that guitar. The band was also something else. Adam Nitti on the bass, Mike Rojas on keys and Kirk Covington on the drums are all at the top of their league. Especially mr. Covingtons mean and angry drum work left me feeling like I got hit by a truck. In a good way of course.

Muriel Andersons Guitar Night was pretty amazing as well with Stanley Jordan, Brooks Robertson, my old school buddy Saso Zver, Laurence Juber from the Wings, Jack Pearson… But the one to really take me by the surprise was Michael Kelsey whose elastic playing style was so impressive, innovative and funny (all the things I’d like to strive for in my playing as well) that the performance just sucked you in and the whole world disappeared. Doesn’t happen too often to a jaded music scholar like myself.

Muriel Andersson's All Star Guitar Night had a pretty impressive line up.

After the CAAS I still got to go to the bluegrass jam in Station Inn and saw The Time Jumpers at 3rd & Lindsley. Both being the best of they’re kind. So I’m definitely coming back to Nashville at some point - hopefully sooner than later!

The future of CAAS is unclear for reasons too earthly to mention, but assuming it’s still held in the future I can warmly recommend it to every picker in the world!